An examination of Linda Lovelace and her influence on feminist thought and the pornographic industry in America

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Semin, Nancy Leigh

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Linda Lovelace played a pivotal role in shaping American ideas about sex and pornography. Her story serves as a symbol for the various positions articulated within the feminist movement, and ostensibly, by the American public at large, regarding the contentious subjects of female sexual pleasure and victimization, as well as the uses for, and accessibility of, pornography. Linda Lovelace (nee Boreman) was born in 1949 in Brooklyn, New York. Following an unremarkable Catholic childhood, at the age of 22, she starred in Deep Throat [1972], which would later become the most profitable and well-known pornographic film ever made. Behind the backdrop of the sexual revolution, Lovelace emerged as the most visible representative for a sexually libertine lifestyle that dominated the late1960s and early1970s. Eight years later, however, Lovelace coauthored Ordeal, an autobiography in which she denounced her involvement in the making of that film, alleging she was forced against her will to participate in its production. Lovelace then allied herself with well-known members of the feminist movement and emerged as its most prominent advocate against the inherent dangers of pornography. However, her changing allegiances created a furor, with many Americans questioning the veracity and motives behind her most recent declarations. In 2001, Lovelace’s legacy was further complicated when she posed for a fetish magazine and began autographing Deep Throat merchandise at memorabilia shows. Before her untimely death stemming from injuries sustained in an auto accident in 2002, it seemed Lovelace had once again shifted her position on the permissibility of pornography in American society. Despite the fact Lovelace wrote four autobiographies, she left untouched any serious effort to analyze the larger and more complex issues regarding her ever-shifting positions on pornography. Relying on Lovelace’s prior books, print media, interviews with family members and contemporaries from the pornographic industry and the feminist movement, this work examines the significance of Lovelace’s life set against changing 20th century social mores, including the phenomenal growth of the pornographic industry and the various feminist positions on the place of` women in it.